U.S. Mayors Bring Local Recommendation to White House Climate Leadership

On January 27 “Climate Day”, President Biden released Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. The order calls for putting the climate crisis at the center of U.S. foreign policy and national security through a government-wide approach, while securing environmental justice and spurring economic opportunity. These issues are ones that mayors and cities have been leading on for years even as national leadership stalled.

The US Conference of Mayors’ Winter Meeting engaged in an important climate conversation between local and national leaders. Moderated by Boston Mayor Mary Walsh, with speakers United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry; White House National Climate Advisor, Gina McCarthy; C40 President and Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti; and ICLEI President and Des Moines Mayor, Frank Cownie. This meeting highlighted the importance of local engagement in national and international climate action.

The event highlighted that while on the front lines of climate impacts – city, town, and county governments remain engaged on climate mitigation, adaptation, climate equity and environmental justice even as the former administration stepped away from the Paris Climate Accord

“[In regards to the “We are still in” movement] You’ve set an example for what you can do at the local level and sub-national level. Governors in 38 states, where we have renewable portfolio laws, have all stayed with [Paris Climate Agreement],” said United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. These pledges have allowed the U.S. to reassure its constituents and allies of the continued efforts to work to reach the international goals set in Paris, and the reiterated goals for the United Nations’ climate COP in Glasgow in 2021.

Mayor Cownie, in his role as ICLEI President globally and ICLEI USA board member, and U.S. Conference of Mayors Trustee, delivered remarks, including announcing the ICLEI Action Plan for the First 100 Days, the organization’s advocacy outline supported by more than 40 mayors and elected officials for how the White House can re-engage in multilateral action through cities and regions. Among the actions, the plan calls for:


  1. Mobilize U.S. cities and counties to bring “science-based” targets and actions to achieve climate neutrality before 2050 to COP26.
  2. Provide local government input to the second U.S. Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce GHG emissions.
  3. Enact Congressional City and Subnational Diplomacy Act
  4. Nominate the U.S. delegation to Co-Chair the UNFCCC Friends of Multilevel Action
  5. Make the U.S. a Party to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity


  1. Reauthorize and Expand the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program
  2. Establish and Implement the National Climate Adaptation Program and Commission
  3. Help Communities Build Back Better for Climate Resilience

ICLEI’s global network with 1,750 cities and regions, including 300 in the U.S., is “committed to supporting the tough decisions that must be made if we are to save our planet” (Mayor Cownie). C40 President and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti highlighted the partnership between ICLEI and C40, the Race to Zero campaign at COP26 in Glasgow, a rallying call for local leadership to achieve net zero by the 2040s.

Conversation Highlights

“As the Secretary said, this is not about sacrifice, this is about recognizing the wonderful work that is done right now in cities and states that actually benefit ever human being, that benefit particularly the communities that have been left behind, where investment has been so hard to get.” 

Gina McCarthy
White House National Climate Advisor (22:33)

“For years, mayors worldwide have been the clarion call for climate change at a time when national and international leaders too often lagged in their responsibilities. [ICLEI is] ready to serve as your voice on the ground and as the Focal Point of local governments at the UNFCCC to spur that action. Our U.S. network has developed a set of actions: [….] Launch a national Climate Action Task Force to ensure the United States presents an increased ambition in its NDCs for COP26 in Glasgow. The U.S. should join and work with the UNFCCC Friends of Multilevel Action, which includes local governments. And make the U.S. party to the UN convention on biological diversity.”

Frank Cownie
Mayor of Des MoinesICLEI President
U.S. Conference of Mayors Trustee (41:35)


“I want this administration to really look at mayors as the dreamers, the doers and the defenders.”

Eric Garcetti
Mayor of Los Angeles
C40 Chair (29:52)


“Everything that we want to accomplish right now, public health, public safety, a strong economy, racial justice, and an equitable recovery from COVID-19, it all depends on a healthy environment. Now is the time to take bold and brave action to prevent irreversible damage to our planet.”

Marty Walsh

Mayor of Boston
Appointed Secretary for U.S. Department of Labor
(3:28): https://youtu.be/6rSNSsWC-Yg?t=208 

“I am really proud of America’s mayors because we have stepped up and have always stepped up in a bipartisan manner and joined partners in the business community to implement local solutions to the many climate challenges that we have. But, we also recognize, to address this local, national, and global challenge, we need a constructive federal partner.”

Greg Fischer
Mayor of Louisville
U.S. Conference of Mayors President (0:43)

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